Fairgoers support Wounded Warrior Project
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 15, 2010 1:46 PM
They could have kept walking -- saving their money for the food, games and rides that drew thousands to the Wayne County Fairgrounds earlier this month.
But when they saw American Legion Post 11 Commander Bill Graham -- when they heard the Vietnam veteran and those standing alongside him talk about what just a few dollars could do -- hundreds of local residents paused.
"There were so many who would take a step or two forward like they were going to walk away from us," Graham said. "But as soon as they heard us say, 'Support our wounded warriors,' they would turn around and come back."
Dozens of members of Post 11 -- and its auxiliary -- worked a booth at this year's fair, raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization devoted to wrapping its arms around those Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg troops wounded in combat.
"We've jumped in to help with fundraising that will supply them with airfare to go visit their families at Christmas," Graham said. "And for those who are in too bad a condition to travel, they get $300 apiece."
And thanks to those who didn't keep on walking, more than $2,300 was raised to support that effort.
But for Graham and his comrades in the Legion, adopting this particular fundraiser is about more than saying thanks to the latest generation of servicemen and women.
To them, it's also a way to participate in a fight they wish they were still young and able enough to join.
"You want to see the love of your country defended. You want to see your freedoms defended," Graham said. "And knowing that we can no longer get out there and do it ourselves, this is the best we can do.
"I remember what I went through. I remember what it felt like. So I'm just as proud of these young fellas and ladies as I can be."
He is proud to see the citizens of a nation he once sacrificed for now honoring its fighting force in a way it did not when he returned home from Vietnam.
"It was bittersweet, our homecoming," Graham said. "So (Vietnam veterans), we've got this unspoken vow between us ... that we will not let our troops down."